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Frankenstein

Some people have no trouble seeing past the delivery style of a movie from a certain period in history to the nuts and bolts of the story underneath and what it's saying. I never used to be able to, and tended to put a blanket ban on any movie older than 1970 - especially the real Hollywood golden years (anything from the film industry's beginnings right up until colour, as far as I'm concerned).

I'm getting better at appreciating old films for what they are, especially since I've seen a lot that don't have such cheesy delivery, melodramatic closeups, laughingly ominous soundtracks etc. It's a Wonderful Life touched me deeper than plenty of modern movies have, whereas Frankenstien belongs in the same realms of hammy acting and high camp as the original King Kong .

But even though I'm better at seeing the deeper meaning underneath nowadays, I still know clag when I see it.

And Frankenstien is pure clag, an undeserved classic blown out to epic proportions in our cultural consciousness when the actual film is stilted, claustrophobic and corny, built on a good idea and nothing more. For that reason, Mary Shelley deserves all the credit for it, while James Whale and Universal have made it a curious and humourous relic of yesteryear (or rather, filmmaking technology and ideas of drama in the 1930s) renders it so to us today).

Everybody knows the story of the doctor obssessed with the creation of life who uses electricity and body parts to unravel the nature of what life is.

Like King Kong , a main theme is of challenging the notion of the term 'monster'. Who is the real monster, the dumb beast with no real evil, only a lack of guidance about right and wrong, or the equally mindless mob, bloodthirsty with vengeance?

Part of Shelley's inspiration for writing the novel was the desolate icy slopes of Switzerland where she imagined the creature could be hiding, a feature completely left out of Whale's version but picked up by Kennth Brannagh decades later. Instead we get five minutes of Karloff and Clive stumbling around a tiny soundstage set with paper mache rock faces.

It's also interesting to realise there's absolutely no musical soundtrack - it makes you understand how important music is to give the audience emotional cues, especially on a seventy year old film print where you can hardly see what's going on to start with.

It was also good to see the inclusion of the sequence where the Monster throws Maria into the lake - cut from the original theatrical version but a central lynchpin in the story.

As an institution, undeniable. As a film, a basket of corn, cheese and ham which the confined sets, duct tape special effects of the 1930s and fashions in acting technique did nothing to help.

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